• on Jul 29th, 2013 in Products & Services | 9 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service uses a variety of strategies and media – including direct mail, television, radio, and sponsorships – to advertise, market, and promote its products and services. These efforts also help to build brand awareness for the Postal Service. Some campaigns have succeeded, such as the Priority Mail Flat Rate box campaign, “If it fits, it ships®.” Other efforts have been less successful.

    Over the years, the Postal Service has faced an advertising conundrum. Some have complained that a government monopoly shouldn’t be spending money to advertise. Others have grumbled that the Postal Service isn’t doing enough to promote its products and services, particularly compared to its competitors. Certainly, the Postal Service’s current financial condition restricts its advertising budget. Then, there have been concerns about how well the Postal Service has managed and monitored advertising contracts, which one of our audit reports documented earlier this year. The Postal Service took corrective actions and has new contracts in place.

    Undoubtedly, we live in an age of competitive advertising. Every product the Postal Service has faces competition, even the monopoly products. The Postal Service needs to use advertising to promote its products, services, and the brand itself. The question might be: What is the most effective way for the Postal Service to advertise? Should campaigns focus on traditional media, or focus on new media, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?

    The Postal Service’s upcoming launch of an ad campaign might provide insights on the best possible strategy. It plans to kick off a nationwide multi-channel advertising campaign in August to promote its Priority Mail changes, which include a “simplification” of Priority Mail services and a name change for Express Mail. For some customers, the new longer name of Priority Mail Express, and the revised Priority Mail service offerings of 1-, 2- or 3-days might actually seem more complicated than simplified. A successful advertising campaign would reduce that confusion.

    Share your thoughts on the Postal Service’s advertising strategy and its recent campaigns. How effective have they been? What changes would you like to see?

  • on Apr 9th, 2013 in Products & Services | 11 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service has a wide spectrum of customers, from businesses and organizations to every household in the United States. Balancing the needs of these customers is no small task, yet satisfying them is essential to the Postal Service’s success. With that in mind, the Postal Service has made improving the customer experience one of the key elements of its strategic goals.

    For consumers, customer service ranges from wait time in lobbies to letter carrier service to interaction with postal staff at a Post Office. Business mailers might focus on different aspects of customer service, such as delivery performance, interaction with acceptance personnel, or how quickly a service problem is resolved. What customers might not realize is that the Postal Service relies on a number of systems to support customer services and to improve a user’s overall experience. These systems can also reduce manual inputs, increase efficiency, and streamline operations. Often seamless to customers, these sophisticated systems have helped to make mail a reliable method of communications. However, when they go down or work inefficiently, it can lead to negative customer experiences, which might impact future business opportunities.

    For example, business mailers use the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system to set up appointments to enter mail at postal facilities. FAST collects and monitors appointment data for the facilities, which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of appointment creation for both customers and Postal Service management. Business mailers also rely on PostalOne!, a suite of web-based business capabilities that allows mailers to integrate their mail planning and production processes with those of the Postal Service for “seamless” and efficient mail induction.

    Consumers are more likely to use the Postal Service’s website usps.com to research or access services, such as purchasing postage, looking up ZIP Codes, printing shipping labels, or submitting a change of address form. And although retail customers might not realize it, their customer experience hinges on the Point of Service (POS) Retail system, which automates retail transactions at post offices and other retail counters.

    When these systems are working properly, customers may not think about them at all. But if these systems experience an outage, the customer experience could be entirely different. Our office is reviewing these systems as part of an audit and would like to hear from customers. What have your experiences been when using FAST, PostalOne!, usps.com and other types of services? Are they consistently available? Or have you experienced system availability problems?

    For business customers, has system availability or slow response times affected your own internal processes, such as transportation schedules or other mail entry issues? For retail customers, have you had problems accessing information or services on usps.com? We also welcome comments of Postal Service employees on their experiences with these applications and the services they support.

    While the scope of our audit is limited to systems review, we welcome input on the entire customer experience.

  • on Nov 5th, 2012 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    As one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in years comes to a close tomorrow, the media is filled with campaign ads. Whether in the morning newspaper, through social media websites, or during commercial breaks on television, we hear constantly about various candidates and ballot referenda. The mailbox is no exception -- direct mail continues to be a widely used political advertising strategy. Recent reports indicate that nearly 2 billion pieces of political mail have been sent this election cycle, and the Postal Service projects it will earn nearly $400 million in revenue from this volume.   If you live in a swing state, such as Colorado, Ohio, or Virginia, your mailbox might have been full of political campaign mail all year long. In these battleground states, no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state's Electoral College votes.  Political campaign mail is a targeted and cost-effective way for the candidates to get their message to their intended audience. If you live in an area with hotly contested state or local elections, you've probably received a great deal of mail from their respective campaigns as well.  The boost in political mail volumes is a testament to the power of direct mail. More dollars may be spent on television advertising, but the ability of mail to pinpoint a message to voters at a reasonable price is especially attractive to candidates and the national parties. However, using this method too much can backfire. Voters report that the barrage of mail prompts them to tune out the message altogether. They throw away or recycle the mail without even opening the piece. Did you find the mailings effective? Did they help to inform your views of a candidate or a voter proposition? Or did the increased amount of political mail cause you to tune out the message? What advantages and disadvantages do you see over newspaper, television, or Internet advertising? Let us know what you think.

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